PLSC 114: Introduction to Political Philosophy

Lecture 13

 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan


Hobbes’ most famous metaphor, that of “the state of nature,” is explained. It can be understood as the condition of human life in the absence of authority or anyone to impose rules, laws, and order. The concept of the individual is also discussed on Hobbesian terms, according to which the fundamental characteristics of the human beings are the capacity to exercise will and the ability to choose. Hobbes, as a moralist, concludes that the laws of nature, or “precepts of reason,” forbid us from doing anything destructive in life.

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Introduction to Political Philosophy

PLSC 114 - Lecture 13 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan

Chapter 1. Hobbes on Individuality [00:00:00]

Professor Steven Smith: Where else are we? Today we’re going to continue the state of nature, Hobbes’s most famous discovery, his most famous metaphor, his most famous concept. At the end of class last time, I tried to identify Hobbes’s central problem, is the problem of authority, what makes authority possible, what makes authority legitimate, and in order to answer that question, I suggested, he created this idea, this metaphor again, of a state of nature, a state in which he says we are naturally in. Hobbes’s state of nature is virtually the opposite of Aristotle’s conception of the natural end or the natural telos of man. It does not consist of our perfection, a condition of our perfection as Aristotle believed, but for Hobbes the state of nature is something like the condition of human life in the absence of authority, in the absence of anyone to impose rules, order, law on us. What would human beings be like in such a condition, a condition of the type that he imagined maintains in periods of crisis, civil war of the kind that was true of England in the 1640s? And I suggested at the end of last time that in many ways Hobbes’s idea of the state of nature can be understood in a sense as an extension of his scientific methodology set out in the opening chapters of the book. Let’s imagine, as he says, human beings as if they were in a sort of laboratory test tube. Let’s strip human beings of all their social ties and customs and traditions. Let’s see what they would be like in abstraction from all of the social and political relationships which they enjoy and see how they would interact with one another almost as chemical properties.

And you can see Hobbes working along that line but I would say this as it were scientific or proto-scientific conception of the state of nature is not the whole answer to this story because underlying Hobbes’ conception of the state of nature is a powerful moral conception, a moral idea of the human being, and that’s what I want to talk a little bit about today. Hobbes is a moralist, which seems odd in some ways. How could grim and dour old Thomas Hobbes be regarded as a moralist or someone with a moral conception of human nature and the human condition? But that’s what I want to suggest to you today. The term, in a sense in which we might better characterize his conception of the state of nature, is one of individuality. Hobbes shows us what it is to exercise the qualities of moral agency; that is, to say to do for ourselves rather than to have things done for us or for you. Hobbes introduced into our moral language the idiom of individuality. And this concept, the concept of what it is to be an individual, a moral agent, isn’t really–is really not older than or at least not much older than the seventeenth century. Until the Renaissance or not much later, people considered themselves primarily not as individuals but as members, members of a particular family, of a caste, of a guild, of a particular religious order, of a city or so on. The idea that one is first of all a self with an “I,” an ego, would have been regarded as unintelligible and even as late as the nineteenth century Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America says, “individualism is a recent expression arising from a new idea.” That idea appeared new to Tocqueville as late as the nineteenth century and this idea of the individual, I want to suggest, is at least in part and maybe in large part traceable back to Hobbes.

What is Hobbes’s individual? Hobbes conceived us through a process of abstraction from the web of attachments in which we find ourselves. We are beings, he argues again in the opening chapters, whose fundamental characteristics as human beings are willing and choosing. We are beings for whom the exercise of the will is a preeminent feature and much of our happiness as human beings depends upon our capacity to exercise our will and our ability for choice. Life for Hobbes is an exercise in continual willing and continual choosing that may be temporarily interrupted but can never come to an end except with the end of life itself. Hobbes’s individuality or individualism is closely connected to this conception of a human being or human well-being as success in the competition for the goods of life. “Continual success,” he writes in chapter 6, “continual success in obtaining those things which a man from time to time desireth is what is called happiness or felicity. Our well being depends on our ability to achieve the objects of our desires, the objects of our choices, for there is no such thing,” he continues, “as perpetual tranquility of mind, no such thing as perpetual tranquility, while we live here, because life itself is but motion and can never be without desire nor without fear no more than without sense.” These are the characteristics of human life, sense, fear and desire, continual desire for one thing after another, and for Hobbes this fact is not simply a physical or factual description of human behavior but it is a moral condition because we are each of us bundles of activity and initiative, of likes and dislikes, of desires and aversions. Life for Hobbes is competition or struggle not just over scarce resources, although that might be part of the struggle, but for honors, for anything else that a person might value or esteem.

Hobbes is fascinated and, is again like Montaigne and a number of others, he is fascinated with the diversity, the sheer diversity, multiplicity of human desires. What leads one person to laughter, leads another person to tears, what leads one person to piety and prayer, leads another person to ridicule and so on and so on. Even moral terms, Hobbes says, terms like “good” and “evil,” he says are expressions of our individual likes and dislikes. We like something, he says, not because it is good but we call something good because we like it and the same with other moral qualities and attributes. They are expressions for him of our psychological states and aspirations and it is this individualism that is the ground of the general competition that we all experience for the objects of our desires that he says the–or from this he infers that the natural condition is one of competition, of struggle, of enmity and of war. In a famous passage from chapter 11 he posits, as he puts it, “a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceaseth only in death.” This is, as he puts it, “a general inclination of all mankind,” this constant restlessness and motion and expression of our individuality and what I have been calling Hobbes’s individualism is connected, in fact even is underwritten by another attribute that is central to Hobbes. It is his skepticism.

Chapter 2. Hobbes’s Skeptical View of Knowledge [00:09:49]

Like many of the great early modern philosophers, Montaigne, Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes was obsessed with the question about what can I know or, maybe put a different way, what am I entitled to believe, and there are many passages in Leviathan that testify to Hobbes’s fundamentally skeptical view of knowledge. Right? He is a skeptic not because he believes that we can have no foundations for our beliefs whatever but he is a skeptic in the sense that there can be no, on his view, transcendent or nonhuman foundations for our beliefs. We cannot be certain, he thinks, of the ultimate foundations of our knowledge and this explains, you may have wondered about this, this explains the importance he attributes to such things as naming and attaching correct definitions to things. For reason, he writes in a famous passage, “for reason is nothing but reckoning, that is adding and subtracting the consequences of general names agreed upon.”

Knowledge, in other words, is for Hobbes a human construction and it is always subject to what human beings can be made to agree upon and that skeptical view of knowledge or at least skeptical view of the foundation of knowledge has far reaching consequences for him. If all knowledge, according to Hobbes, ultimately rests on agreement about shared terms, he infers from that that our reason, our rationality, has no share in what Plato or Aristotle would have called the divine Noos, the divine intelligence. Our reason has within it no spark of divinity. Our reason does not testify to some kind of inner voice of conscience or anything that would purport to give it some kind of indubitable foundation. Such certainty as we have about anything is for Hobbes always provisional, discovered on the basis of experience and subject to continual revision in the light of further experience, and that again experiential conception of knowledge. That kind of skepticism about the foundations of knowledge has further implications for Hobbes’s views on such things as religion and religious toleration.

“There are no signs or fruit of religion,” he says, “but in man only,” he says in chapter 12. That is to say, the causes of religion can be traced back and are rooted in the restlessness of the human mind in its search for causes. And it is because, he says, we are born ignorant of causes, we are ignorant of the causes of things, that we are led to search out beginnings and origins and this leads us ultimately, he says, to posit the existence of God who is, so to speak, the first cause of all things. Hobbes does not, despite this kind of rationalistic view of religion and his view that religion has its origin again in the restlessness of the human mind, Hobbes doesn’t deny the possibility of revelation or some kind of direct communication of God to us. But what he does deny is that anyone who has claimed to receive such a revelation, he denies that any such person has the right to impose that view on anyone else because nobody else can correctly have the means to verify a person’s claim to revelation. No one can impose their claim of revealed knowledge on another. Does this make Hobbes an atheist, as many would have maintained in his day? No. It makes him a skeptic about revealed religion.

Chapter 3. The State of Nature [00:14:11]

So it is because of this individualism and skepticism, a view of life as willing and choosing, that there are in the state of nature so to speak no standards to adjudicate conflicts, that the central issue of politics arises, namely what makes authority possible, how are people who are biologically individually constituted, so to speak, how can any of them ever–any of us ever be capable of obeying common rules or having moral obligations to one another? How is that possible, Hobbes continues to ask in a manner of speaking on almost every page of the book. But before answering that question, consider a little further Hobbes’s account of the state of nature and what makes it seem like a plausible starting point to answer the question of what makes authority possible.

To say that the state of nature consists primarily of individuals with again diverse likes, dislikes, beliefs, opinions and the like is not to say that the state of nature is a state of isolation, as it sometimes attributed to him. People in the state of nature may have regular and continual contact with one another. It is just that their relations are unregulated. They are unregulated by law; they are unregulated by authority. The state of nature is simply a kind of condition of maximum insecurity, an unregulated market with no common laws or rules to sustain it. The emphasis on the individual is just another way of saying, again unlike Aristotle, that no one has natural authority over anyone else. Relations of authority exist only by, so to speak, the consent or the will of the governed. And the fact that relations in the state of nature are unregulated for him makes it–it’s synonymous with making it a condition of war, of “all against all,” in his famous formulation. Now, you might look at that formulation, the state of war is one against–of all against all and you might say that such a condition of civil war, of maximum insecurity, of the total breakdown of condition of rules and laws is if anything the state of the exception. How often does that really occur in our experience in human life? But Hobbes, like Machiavelli, as we saw, likes to take the exceptional situation and turn it into the norm. It becomes the normal condition, state of security, insecurity, fear, conflict and the like.

This is not to say, again, that the state of nature for Hobbes is one of permanent fighting. But it is one of permanent fear and distrust and he asks his readers…there are so many wonderful passages in this book, this just happens to be one of my particular favorites, he asks his readers if you don’t believe me, again think of his skepticism, don’t believe me, he says, check your own experience and see if I’m not right. And this is what he writes. “Let him, the reader, therefore ask himself,” Hobbes writes, “when taking a journey he arms himself and seeks to go well accompanied. When going to sleep, he locks his doors even when in his house, and even when in his house he locks his chests and this, when he knows, he says, there be laws and public officers armed to avenge all injuries shall be done to him. What opinion, Hobbes asks, he has of his fellow subjects when he rides armed? What does that say about your thinking about your fellow citizens when you arm yourselves going for a trip, of his fellow citizens when he locks his doors at night or of his children and servants when he locks his chests? Does he not therefore as much accuse mankind by his action as I do by my words?” You can see the mischievousness of Hobbes in that delightful passage. What about you, he says, and this is not in some kind of state of nature. This is in a completely fully functioning society when you go armed, when you lock your doors, when you lock your chests at night, don’t your actions and your experience simply confirm what I’m saying? And this tells us another thing about the state of nature which it is easy to forget. The state of nature, at least for Hobbes, is not some kind of primitive anthropological datum that we find by going back in time somehow. Rousseau will speak about it more this way. For Hobbes, the state of nature exists, he says, whenever authority is not enforced. The state of nature fully continues, in many ways, oddly even in civil society, he says, whenever we have reason to believe that our lives or our properties or ourselves are not secure. In fact, we can never be fully free of the fear and of the anxiety and uncertainty of the state of nature, even within to some degree of fully constituted civil society.

The only exception to this of course in Hobbes’s account of the state of nature when he says “don’t you lock your doors at night” are of course Yale students living here on campus who are so trusting that they never lock their doors at night in the entryways and so on and then of course are always stunned to find when something is stolen from them, how could this be? And I tell them lock your doors but they still don’t believe me. Maybe you’ll now believe Hobbes if you don’t believe me. So the state of nature, it’s a state of insecurity, it’s a state of conflict. How do we get out of it? This is of course the huge issue that Hobbes asks for the rest of–for much of the book. What do we do to get out of this state of nature to enter a condition of civil society and civilized life? How do I give up my right to do whatever is in my power to secure my person or my possessions, when I have no expectation, you might say, that others around me are prepared to do so as well? This is sort of a classic example of what economists and other people like them call the prisoner’s dilemma. Why should I act in such a way if I have no expectation or reasonable expectation that those around me will reciprocate?

Hobbes’s members of a state of nature seem to be in a classic prisoner’s dilemma problem. Maybe we can say, we could say or Hobbes could say, that laying down our right to do all things in seeking peace with others is the rational thing to do in the condition of nature. We are all rational actors and therefore it is rational for us to seek and to desire peace, but note that that is exactly what Hobbes does not say, he does not say this. Far from having a sort of rational actor model of politics, he operates with an irrational actor model. He assumes that it is not reason but our passions that are the dominant force of human psychology, our desires, our aversions, our passions. And although I have said that Hobbes has emphasized the diversity of our passions there are still two main passions that he feels universally dominate human nature and these two passions are pride and fear.

Chapter 4. Pride and Fear: Passions that Dominate Human Nature [00:23:14]

Pride and fear, these are the Hobbesian equivalents of the two great–what Machiavelli called humors you remember, the two humors of the two great social classes, the desires of the rich and powerful as it were to rule over others and the desire of the weak not to be ruled. Machiavelli called those the two umori, the two humors. And Hobbes similarly works with a kind of model. He’s a great political psychologist, the two great passions of pride and fear. Pride, he says, is the passion for preeminence, the desire to be first and also to be seen to be first in the great race of life. Prideful people, he tells us, are those overflowing with confidence about their own abilities to succeed and we all know people like this, don’t we, like Yale students? They’re all overflowing with confidence, kind of alpha types. Machiavelli might call them sort of manly men who are fully confident about their abilities.

And yet Hobbes is a great debunker of human pride. Pride is equivalent to what he calls vanity or vainglory. It is a kind of exaggerated confidence in one’s own power and ability. It is pride, the desire to lord it over others and to have one’s superiority acknowledged by others, that is the great problem for Hobbes to be averted. But if pride for him is one of his great universal passions so is its opposite, fear. Hobbes makes the fear of death that may come to us at any time in the state of nature, perhaps he exaggerates this, by making it appear that the state of nature is a kind of existential condition in which death can come to you at almost any moment. But there is more to fear than this, simply fear of death, although Hobbes emphasizes and dramatically perhaps overemphasizes this. Fear is not just the desire to avoid death but to avoid losing, you might say again, in the great race of life, to avoid losing and to be seen as a loser. It is the desire to avoid the shame of being seen by others as losing out somehow. There is a social quality clearly to both of these passions, pride and fear, one again the desire to have one’s preeminence esteemed by others, fear, the desire to avoid shame and dishonor.

How we are seen by others is a crucial cardinal part of Hobbes’ moral psychology and each of us, he says, contain. These do not simply represent two classes of individuals, two classes of persons. Each of us contains these two warring, you might say, elements within us, both self-assertion and fear of the consequence of self-assertion. The question is for Hobbes, how do we tame these passions? It is most of all pride that Hobbes wants to tame and of course the very title of his book, Leviathan, he tell us later on comes from what? Do you remember? Where does it come from? Who remembers? Passage from what? Job, Book of Job, where he refers to Leviathan as king of the children of pride. The book is based on a biblical metaphor about overcoming or subduing pride. As the great Marsellus Wallace says in the film Pulp Fiction, pride never helps, it only hurts, if you remember that magnificent speech. Fear, Hobbes says, is the passion to reckon on, is the passion to bew reckoned on. It is fear, not reason, that leads us to abandon the state of nature and sue for peace. The passions that incline men to peace, Hobbes writes, are fear of death. This is not to say that Hobbes believes fear to be the naturally stronger of the two passions; in fact, far from it. There are many people certainly even around us who Hobbes believes do not fear death as they should, the proud aristocrat who prefers death before dishonor, the religious zealot prepared to sacrifice his life and of course those of others in order to achieve the rewards of heaven and of course just the risk taking individual who seeks to climb Mount Everest just for the honor and esteem involved. And it is part of the broader educational or pedagogic function of Leviathan to help us see, Hobbes thinks, the dangers of pride and the advantages of peace. Properly directed, fear leads to peace.

Chapter 5. The Laws of Nature [00:29:09]

Fear is the basis, even of what Hobbes calls the various laws of nature, that lead us to civil society. The laws of nature for Hobbes are described as a precept or a general rule of reason that every man ought to endeavor peace and it is out of fear that we begin to reason and see the advantages of society; reason is dependent upon the passions, upon fear. The first and most fundamental law of nature, he says, is to seek peace and follow it.

Not only should one seek peace but we have an obligation, he says, to lay down our arms, to lay down our right to all things on the condition that others around us are prepared to do so as well. And Hobbes goes on to enumerate 19 laws of nature, I won’t go into all of them, 19 laws of nature that constitute a kind of framework for establishing civil society. These laws he even compares as his equivalent of the Golden Rule which he states in the negative: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. Here is Hobbes’s rewriting of the Golden Rule in terms of these laws of nature but these raise a question for us as readers of Hobbes. Right? Don’t they? What is the status of the laws of nature? What is the moral status, if any, of these laws? Hobbes, as we see, sometimes writes as a sort of scientist or proto-scientist for whom nature and one supposes the laws of nature operate with the same kind of necessity as the laws of physical attraction. That’s how he often writes about human behavior, that we obey the same laws of physical attraction as do any other bodies that we might choose to describe. They describe how bodies in motion always and necessarily behave, these laws of nature.

And yet at the same time, Hobbes writes as a moralist for whom the laws of nature, he calls “precepts of reason” or general rules according to which we are forbidden to do anything destructive of life.” In this sense, the laws of nature, as he describes them, appear to be moral laws with moral commands, commands you not to do anything that is destructive of life, your own or that of others, and these moral laws, in this sense, we have presumably the freedom to obey them or disobey them. If they acted with a kind of mechanical necessity or even geometric necessity, they could not possibly be moral laws in that way. They can only be moral if there is some semblance of human choice or will expressed in the relationship, our ability to do otherwise. So these laws of nature, seek peace and so on, do not simply seem to be descriptive of how people do behave. They seem to be prescriptive of how people ought to behave and this Hobbes even suggests at the end of chapter 15 when he writes about the laws of nature, “these dictates of reason men used to call by the name ‘laws’ but improperly for they are conclusions or theorems according to what conduces to the conversation of mankind.” These used to be called laws of nature, he says, but improperly. So if they are only improperly laws of nature why does Hobbes continue to use the term? Why does he use this terminology of “laws of nature”? In a sense, this might simply be Hobbes’s way of paying homage to the ancient tradition of natural law going back to the medieval scholastics, to the stoics, and perhaps even beyond them. The natural laws for Hobbes are not divine commands or ordinances, he says, but they are rules of practical reason figured out by us as the optimal means of securing our well-being. These laws of nature, as he describes them, do not issue categorical commands so much as sort of hypothetical rules. If you want X, do Y; if you want peace, here are the means to it. And he calls these laws, these 19 laws of nature, the true and only moral philosophy. So you can see in that passage Hobbes takes himself to be a moralist writing within the great tradition of moral philosophy. These laws of nature are for him the true and only moral philosophy.

Well, this brings me to some criticisms or at least some questions about Hobbes’s conception of the laws of nature. What are we to make of these laws, as I’ve asked before? In one sense, there seems to be a genuine moral content to Hobbes’s laws of nature which can be reduced to a single formula: Seek peace above all other goods. Hobbes, more than anyone else, wants us to value the virtues of civility. Those, you might say, summed up in a word are what the 19 laws of nature command. The civility entails the virtues of peace, equity, fairness, playing by the rules. Peace is for Hobbes a moral good and the virtues are those qualities of behavior that tend to peace and vices are those that lead to war. Consider the disadvantages of war and the benefits of peace. Here is what Hobbes writes. “In such a condition, that is the state of nature, there is no place for industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor building nor instruments of moving and removing things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society and which is worst of all continual fear and danger of violent death.” This is again the sort of existential condition in which Hobbes wants to put us in the state of nature and all the benefits he lists there, he enumerates, that are denied to us in such a condition, again no knowledge, no geography, no cultivation of the earth, no navigation or building. All of these things are the fruits of peace, he tells us.

But at this point, a careful reader such as all of yourselves no doubt, would no doubt be suggesting, I’ve gone too far in suggesting or calling Hobbes a moral philosopher whose motto in a way could be summed up in the phrase “Give peace a chance.” Is that what Hobbes believed? Why is the peace the highest good anyway? Why not justice? Why not honor? Why not piety? Why not the examined life? What makes peace so good for Hobbes? Well, I’ve given a number of… have quoted him on a number of reasons but one suggestion might be that it is not so much peace alone that Hobbes cherishes as life. Peace is a means to life. Every creature, he says, has a built-in desire to preserve itself, to persevere in its own existence, to continue in its own steady state you might say, and to resist invasion or encroachment by others. We are all endowed, he says, with a kind of natural right to life and the desire to preserve oneself is not just a biological fact, although it is also that, it is for him a moral right, it is a moral entitlement, every being has a fundamental right to its own life. We not only have a right to our lives but to do whatever we regard as needful to protect our lives.

And again, this is not simply a brute fact of nature. It is a moral entitlement for Hobbes, the source of human worth and dignity. But now you will suggest, I’ve really gone too far, attributing to Hobbes a doctrine of human dignity that one might expect to find in a philosopher like Kant or someone else. Didn’t Hobbes cynically write in chapter 10, “the value or worth of a man is of all things his price,” what price we will fetch in the marketplace no doubt, the value or worth of a man is his price, a phrase incidentally quoted by Karl Marx to indicate the sheer heartlessness of the kind of the bourgeoisie society that Hobbes was hoping to bring about. And doesn’t Hobbes’ materialism and his sort of mechanistic theory of nature seem to detract from any inherent worth of the individual? There seems to be something to that and yet Hobbes certainly regards life as a precious good, perhaps the most precious good of all, and he writes with a lively sense of how fragile and endangered life is.

The work as a whole can be seen as an effort to dispel what he believes to be false beliefs, false doctrines and beliefs, that disguise the truth from us, truth about the value of life; for example, beliefs about the afterlife and all beliefs that detract from an appreciation for the value of life as it is. This provides the moral basis of what I would call Hobbes’s humanitarianism and yet that humanitarianism seems to raise further problems. Doesn’t Hobbes or does Hobbes’s attempt to instill in us, the readers of his book, his attempt to instill in us an appreciation for life and the value of life, does this simultaneously create an aversion to risk, an extreme fear of conflict and challenge or disorder? You could say is this constant fear that Hobbes harps on fear of death and the value of life, to put it rather rudely, is this not another word for cowardice? Does Hobbes’ emphasis on the preservation of life as the supreme moral value, does this turn his mightyLeviathan into a kind of commonwealth of cowards? Where Aristotle made the courage of men in combat a central virtue of his ethics, Hobbes pointedly omits courage from his list of the moral virtues. At one point, he even suggests that courage is really just a species of rashness and his example of courage comes from duels and duel fighting which he says will be always honorable but are unlawful. “For duels,” he says, “are many times effects of courage and the ground of courage is always strength or skill though for the most part,” he says, “they be effects of rash speaking and the fear of dishonor in one or both of the combatants.” In other words, courage for him again is a form of vanity or pride, the desire not to appear less than another. It is a form of rashness, he says.

And that suspicion is further carried out in Hobbes’s very interesting treatment of military conscription which he talks about in chapter 21. There he describes battle, as he says, “a mutual running away” to armies confronting one another he describes as a mutual running away, and furthermore he says when it comes to conscription there should be allowance made for those that he calls “men of natural timorousness,” cowards in other words. A man that has commanded as a soldier, Hobbes writes, to fight against the enemy though his sovereign has the right enough to punish his refusal with death may nevertheless, Hobbes writes, in many cases refuse without injustice as when he substituteth a sufficient solider in his place. In other words, Hobbes’ view of this is why do the fighting yourself, if you can get someone else to do it for you? There is no intrinsic virtue in courage or battle, if you can get somebody else to do the job for you, a sort of perfect description, I think, of our volunteer army, how we pay people to do this difficult and dangerous work for us. But the question is, can even a Hobbesian society, one which insists on rules and so on, can a Hobbesian society do entirely without–

[cellphone interrupts class]

Professor Steven Smith: Anyway, can a Hobbesian society do without what we might call them the manly virtues, the civic virtues, pride, love of honor that Hobbes seems to condemn? Consider the case of Ralph Esposito. Who is Ralph Esposito, you ask? His name is not in the index of Hobbes’s book but Mr. Esposito is a New York City fireman who came to Branford College to be a Master’s Tea guest not long after 9/11 and at length he discussed there people like himself who daily risk their lives running into building burning–burning buildings to rescue total strangers. Why do people do this? Is it because some people have a kind of built in sense of thumos, that wonderful Platonic term, pride, courage, love of risk that no society, not even a Hobbesian one, can do without? Even Hobbes’s society presumably cannot do without a fire department or a police department; yet, if one were to follow Hobbes’s risk averse psychology, if one were to follow the 19 laws of nature that advise us to seek peace and to avoid conflict, why would anyone ever become a fireman, a soldier, a risk taker, a policeman of any sort? Why would anyone ever risk one’s life for one’s country or a cause just to help other people, people that we don’t know and probably will never know? Even in the passage that I cited earlier, where Hobbes describes the benefits of civil society, he speaks of activities like navigation, exploration and industry. Presumably, these are activities that are all engaged in risk taking behavior of one kind or another that seem not to be able to be explained by Hobbes’s law of nature alone. So the question I want to leave you with today and that I want to pick up again on Wednesday is, in the end, what do societies require more of? Do they require more of Hobbes’s men of natural timorousness or do they require more Ralph Espositos? And on that we’ll finish up Hobbes on Wednesday.

[end of transcript]

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